On the moon, there’s little gravity, little air, little water, and a whole lot of radiation and extreme temperature fluctuations. These are not ideal conditions for gardening. But NASA is going to try. It’s designed a tiny habitat — about as large as a coffee canister, according to NPR — that researchers think will allow plants to, if not thrive, at least exist on the moon:

The plant habitat that [plant scientist Bob] Bowman and his colleagues have designed contains seeds, as well as a nutrient-rich paper and enough air and water for the seeds to germinate and grow. The canister also has features that regulate light and temperature, and cameras that the researchers will use to track the plants’ progress over five to 10 days.

The idea, of course, is that one day people will be living off-Earth for long enough periods that living off freeze-dried food will be unsustainable (and possibly cause space madness). These little moon gardens could help astronauts eat local.

For starters, NASA is growing cress, turnips, and basil, which are no one’s favorite foods (well, maybe basil), and can’t really go together to make a decent salad. But replace the turnip with kohlrabi and the basil with mint, and you’re maybe getting somewhere.

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